Cuts_Both_Ways_CD_Cover.jpegGloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine – “Get On Your Feet” – (1989)

As upbeat as this song is – and the fact that it was on the by-this-point-cresting wave of Latin-tinged 1980s hits – it only managed to hit #11 on the Hot 100, but it was still a mainstay on Adult Contemporary radio for the next five years, at least. This was the most fun hit from Gloria’s final album with the Miami Sound Machine.

220px-rhythmnation1814Janet Jackson – “Rhythm Nation” – (1989)

This is sort of the title track from Janet’s 1989 album Rhythm Nation 1814. As the second single, it went to #2 on the Hot 100 and its video is one of the most recognizable of the first 10 years of MTV. It’s one of the best songs from an album loaded with “best” songs.

Aerosmith – “Janie’s Got a Gun” – (1989)

“Janie’s Got a Gun” was the second single from Aerosmith’s 1989 album Pump. It was a top five single on the Hot 100, peaking at #4. Often combined with the preceding track on the album, “Water Song” – which is a 10-second instrumental track, this song is one of Aerosmith’s biggest hits and it still receives a fair amount of airplay on classic rock radio. A good tune from Aerosmith’s big hair days (have those days actually ended?).

Cher & Peter Cetera – “After All” – (1989)

This is one of those huge adult contemporary singles from the late 1980s – it topped that chart for four weeks in 1989 and only peaked at #6 on the Hot 100. It was featured in the movie Chances Are and was nominated for an Oscar (which The Little Mermaid ended up winning). This should be an easy song to mock, but I’m not on a VH1 clipshow so I won’t mock it. It really isn’t terrible and reminds me strongly of the early 1990s when it was played constantly.

Kaoma – “Lambada” – (1989)

We’ve talked about this song previously – in 2010 and 2011 it began to be sampled right and left, first prominently by Jennifer Lopez and then much more successfully by Don Omar. However, this song itself samples earlier songs. Well start with the 1981 song “Llorando se fue” by Los Kjarkas. It’s a Bolivian folk song and the source of the hypnotically tropic melody that is the core of this song and everything this song has been sampled into. More specifically, this song is a cover mix of two songs that both were versions of that 1981 tune: “Lloradno se fue” by Cuarteto Continental, a Peruvian group that turned the folk songs into an upbeat song that uses the accordion; and “Chorando se fiu” – a vocal track in Portuguese by Marcia Ferreira. The history of all these things is more complicated (lawsuits, other performers, etc.) but what remains is that “Lambada” is a timeless track from a French pop group that used a Brazilian vocalist for the Portuguese vocals. The music video was shot in Bahia, Brazil (one of the world’s most beautiful places) and stars Chico and Roberta – a then-child dance duo who have a tribute to them in the music video for Don Omar’s song we feature a week or two ago. This song was a #1 hit in 11 European countries plus a #1 on the European chart as a whole. It was a top 15 track in Japan, New Zealand, Ireland and Australia. Only the cold United States barely let it into the top 50, with frigid Canada shutting it out to #78. Summer songs barely get better than this.

Taylor Dane – “Love Will Lead You Back” – (1989)

This #1 hit from Taylor Dane (her only #1, she had multiple top fives) was the biggest hit of her career. It’s definitely her best song. The song was written by Diane Warren – which should come as little surprise, as Diane Warren seems to have written every major pop hit between the mid-to-late-1980s and mid-1990s. This is also one of those songs that defines “Adult Contemporary” music in my mind. It’s a staple of “The Best Mix of the 80s, 90s, and Today” radio. And it should be a guilty pleasure. But it isn’t.

#5 – Gladys Knight – “Licence to Kill” – (1989)

What I like about this song is that it sounds like any slow 80s pop song – but you can still tell it has a Bond influence. The soundtrack for this movie was actually pretty good, as it also contained a decent hit for Patti LaBelle that Celine Dion would later run up the charts. Annoyingly to Americans, the title of this song uses the British spelling of the word “license.” My spell check is furious. This is a good song, even though it sounded about four years older than it was at the time it was released.

Nirvana – “About a Girl” – (1989/1994)

This song was originally released on Bleach in 1989 but was recorded for the band’s live Unplugged set for MTV. It was the first single released from the Unplugged album after Kurt Cobain’s death. I’ve linked to the live version because it was a #1 Modern Rock single in the U.S. Cobain didn’t even want to include this track on Bleach because he found it might alienate the grunge fan base. He wrote it after listening to early Beatles records on repeat. He thought it was too “poppy.” I find it kind of funny, 20 years removed, that this was too pop for grunge. It’s very grunge. But I would have very much liked to see what Kurt Cobain could’ve written if he were uninhibited by his perceived grunge-God-ness and free to experiment with his Beatles obsession all he wanted.

Calloway – “I Wanna Be Rich” – (1989)

Fun fact, you can’t buy this song on Amazon as a download, you have to buy the whole CD. And, big whoops, this song actually came out in 1989 although I associate it as totally 1990s – probably because of that 90s pop/dance beat (and the fact that it charted in ’90). “I want money… lots and lots of money… I want the pie in the sky.” Even today this remains a fun, upbeat song that I don’t mind listening to in public (that’s the real test of a song’s lasting popularity – whether or not you can allow other people to listen to you listening to it). This hit #2 in the U.S. in 1990 and was the only hit from Cincinnati-based Calloway.

UB40 – “Here I Am (Come and Take Me)” – (1989)

This awesome reggae cover of Al Green’s 1973 classic was released of off UB40’s 1989 album Labour of Love II. It was a top ten hit in the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and the Netherlands in 1990. UB40 is the world’s most successful reggae artist/band (by album sales). Many of their hits were from the 1980s and this was the first single from their last album from the 1980s, thus its association with the 80s in my mind. P.S., I saw UB40 live two years ago and they were fantastic. They will also be a staple on our mainstream/reggae-pop list which we will be counting down at a date that is still TBD.

Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game” – (1989)

This song is known mainly for two things: Chris Isaak’s surreal vocals and the black and white music video where Isaak is running around the beach with topless model Helena Christensen. It was released as a single in 1989 but it didn’t become a hit until 1990 when it was featured in the movie Wild at Heart. After its appearance in the movie, it hit #6 on the Hot 100 – the only major hit of Chris Isaak’s career. It’s weird, because this is an adult contemporary/pop song but Chris Isaak is an awesome rockabilly artist and performer.

Young MC – “Bust a Move” – (1989)

I think it’s fair to call Young MC a “one-hit wonder” – but what a hit it was. I’m planning a future “history of rap/hip-hop” list and this would have been a perfect fit, because it’s so classic, but I’m kind of burning it here instead as it was released in 1989 but I associate it with the 90s (I guess I should’ve just considered 1989 as part of the 90s, but then I’d be aimless for these weeks as to what I’d post). This song shows up on TV shows and in movies almost constantly and it never really gets old. Trivia: Young MC was actually born in London and this song features Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers on bass. One of my favorite TV appearances – not of this song or Young MC – was on Scrubs where they meet “Old MC,” an old Young MC impersonator.

Alannah Myles – “Black Velvet” – (1989)

This song is wonderful. Songs about Elvis Presley (which this one is) should evoke The King – and this one does, right from the beginning: “Mississippi in the middle of a dry spell… Black Velvet with that slow, southern style.” The music is bluesy and it rocks and her voice is rough and scratchy – the perfect southern roots-rock sound. But she’s actually Canadian (but hey, so is Neil Young). There are numerous allusions to Elvis throughout the song, which was a #1 hit and a Grammy-winner for Myles who has more or less disappeared from the popular music scene since. This was released as a single at the end of 1989 but it received a ton of airplay throughout the 90s.

P.S. this song is not one that stays on YouTube for very long, so it’s likely that link won’t work. Try clicking the album cover and listening to the preview on Amazon.

Technotronic – “Pump Up the Jam” – (1989)

“Get your booty on the floor tonight, make my day.” Classic. You’re looking at (and hopefully listening to) the first house song to go mainstream. And by “house” I mean “club music.” Does it sound dated today? You bet it does, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t great. Break out your Jock Jams CDs and go crazy with early-to-mid-90s dance music and techno. This was released in 1989 and topped the dance chart that November. Mainstream success came in 1990, so I’m not insane associating this with the 1990s. I have a very specific memory of listening to this song (on said Jock Jams CD) in the mid-1990s when the original Sony PlayStation came out – with its crazy non-cartridge CD-based gaming! – and the only game I had was a Lara Croft: Tomb Raider demo disc. I don’t want to think of the amount of time I spent playing that dead-end game. But as far as “pumping up the jam?” Oh yeah!

Aerosmith – “What It Takes” – (1989)

It’s not that the song is terrible – it isn’t – but it certainly isn’t my favorite and I wouldn’t say I enjoy listening to it. I think it has mostly to do with the fact that it’s from a period of rock music that I don’t necessarily enjoy. Not the high point of rock and roll, the late 80s. This also wasn’t the high point for Aerosmith. We’ll call it an “average” Aerosmith tune.

Also, this is Aerosmith week (not an official holiday)! An 80s track on Monday. A 90s track on Wednesday. And something newer than that on Friday. Enjoy.

Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down” – (1989)

Full Moon Fever was a solo album (meaning sans The Heartbreakers) and it contained some of Tom Petty’s most famous songs. This is among them. This song was written by Petty and co-Wilbury Jeff Lynne. Actually, Lynne and George Harrison both provided backing vocals as well as additional guitar, making this a 3/5 Wilbury tune. Every now and then this song pops up in America for reasons of Nationalism (9/11) or during Presidential campaigns (which is kind of annoying). It’s one of those songs that everyone has probably heard and it’s one of the best tracks from Full Moon Fever.

Vince Vance & the Valiants – “All I Want for Christmas is You” – (1989)

A country Christmas song by what can more or less be described as a “novelty band.” It’s a popular song on the radio this time each year and it’s the only song to hit the charts by Vince Vance & the Valiants. I’ve heard people say that they’re disappointed because there aren’t any “modern, original” Christmas songs. But they’re thinking in terms of carols, because this is a modern, original Christmas song and it’s very, very good. The video is weird, but the song is good and you’ve no doubt heard it a hundred times.

#10 – Mötley Crüe – “Kickstart My Heart” – (1989)

What’s with the umlauts in the names of 80s rock bands? This song is about bassist Nikki Sixx’s overdose in 1987 when he was declared clinically dead. Then someone went Tarantino and stabbed two shots of adrenaline into his heart and… well, kickstarted his heart. I’m not a huge Mötley Crüe fan but I do quite like this song. I can’t believe I got through an entire post about Mötley Crüe without mentioning Tommy Lee… oh, crap.

#22 – Great White – “Once Bitten, Twice Shy” – (1989)

During the opening of this song I always think I’m in for Motley Crüe’s “Girls, Girls, Girls” but, well, it’s not. This song was originally recorded by Ian Hunter but, strangely, this version is better. This was their biggest hit and was what the band was mostly known for until 2003 when there was a fire at a nightclub that killed 100 people. Sadly, that’s what they’re more known for these days.

Janet Jackson – “Black Cat” – (1989)

We’re going back to the 1980s for a few weeks starting with yet another song from Rhythm Nation. This song was a departure for Janet – it’s not your typical R&B song – actually, it’s not an R&B song at all. It’s rock. Which is weird. Janet has written three songs entirely by herself, and this was the first. If you think about it, R&B singers don’t venture into the rock arena all that often. Her brother, Michael, did it a few times… the best probably being “Black or White.”

Tom Petty – “Free Fallin’” – (1989)

“Free Fallin'” might just be Tom Petty’s most widely-known song and it came from Full Moon Fever – Petty’s first “solo” album without his longtime backing band The Heartbreakers. It was written by Petty and Jeff Lynne – both of whom were in The Traveling Wilburys at that point in time.

Janet Jackson – “Escapade” – (1989)

Rhythm Nation. Again. This really was a huge album and I think this might be the most well-known song from it (although I have nothing to back up that opinion). Yeah, I know this single was released in 1990, but the album came out in 1989 – so maybe this song would have been put to better use on our forthcoming (and very brief) list of songs that sound like they come from a different decade than they technically did. I like the random shout-out to Minneapolis in this song. How random.

Janet Jackson – “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” – (1989)

Rhythm Nation produced hit after hit for Janet at the end of the decade – this was the last from the album. The album was released in September of 1989 but this song didn’t hit #1 until January of 1991. Originally, this was supposed to be a duet – but thankfully those plans fell through because it makes for a better upbeat pop song than it would any kind of ballad or duet.

Phil Collins – “Another Day in Paradise” – (1989)

This is listed as Phil Collins’ most successful song – being a #1 just about everywhere. It was the first single from …But Seriously. “Oh, think twice. It’s another day for you and me in paradise” is the famous part of the chorus that leads into the well known hook. Yeah, there should be more Phil Collins songs coming up on here…

Janet Jackson – “Miss You Much” – (1989)

Janet Jackson rocked the late 80s. This was her second #1, the first from Rhythm Nation – which is easily her best album. New jack swing was the R&B rage at this point and this is one of the most successful examples of the sub-genre. Most of this album was dance-oriented and when was the last time you saw a black and white music video?